Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Training and Husbandry

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever comes from the Canadian peninsula of Nova Scotia and belongs to the FCI group 8 of retrievers. Translated, his name means something like “Nova Scotia duck-baiting retriever”.


The word “tolling” comes from the Old English word “tollen”, which means “to lead into temptation”. According to the breed standard, the ideal height is 43 to 53 cm, the weight should be between 17 and 23 kg if possible. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a moderately long, close-lying coat with thick, straight to slightly wavy hair. It also has a dense undercoat and heavy feathering.


The coat color is a shade of red that can range from deep reddish gold to dark coppery red. It also usually has small white markings on its paws, chest, the tip of the tail, and sometimes on its face. Some specimens have very little white, while others have white in the Irish pattern.

Occasionally, a white forehead blaze also occurs. The white tip of the tail is highly valued as it can be seen from a great distance by the waterfowl being hunted. As with other retrievers, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever’s coat requires relatively little grooming in the form of regular brushing.


It has been known for centuries how foxes hunt swimming ducks. While a fox roams the shore, happily wagging its tail, its fellow hunter remains hidden nearby. The ducks on the water are becoming more and more curious as a result of the movements and are constantly swimming closer to the shore.

If they are then close enough, one of them will be caught by the hidden fox. The natives of Nova Scotia, the Indians, simulated the movements of the fox by dragging a corresponding fur along the bank. But dogs can also be taught to walk around the shore like a fox and thus arouse the curiosity of the waterfowl.

The white settlers also took advantage of this hunting method and bred the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever from native red-brown Indian dogs, cocker spaniels, setters, and collies. Another opinion says that this breed is the result of various retriever crosses. Golden Retrievers, Chesapeake, Labrador, and Flat-Coated Retrievers are said to have been involved, as well as Spritzer Cockers, Irish Setters, various small farm collies, and/or spitz dogs.

The hunting style of tolling has been around for more than a hundred years. Since that time, the hunters of the Little River District in southwestern Nova Scotia have used dogs as “decoys” for duck hunting. In the same way as the fox, the so-called “MicMac Indian Dog” also attracts the waterfowl.

Although this style of hunting has been around for a long time, it was not until 1945 that the breed was formally inscribed and written as a standard.

At first, they were referred to as “Little River Duck Dog” or “Yarmouth Toller”, but it was only when the Canadian Kennel Club began registering them towards the end of the 1950s that the breed received its current name.

The breed was not internationally recognized until 1982 by the FCI. There are now a good number of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers represented by a specialty club in the United States.


Duck hunting begins with the hunter hiding in close proximity to the shore. He then throws a stick or other small dumbbell towards the water. The dog will now run there, jumping around or spinning while retrieving and bringing the item back to the hunter.

He wags his tail all the time, sometimes one or the other dog barks. The object is thrown again and again and then fetched by the dog, sometimes the ducks are immediately curious, and sometimes they watch this game up to 50 times from a safe distance.

The dog keeps moving and fetches enthusiastically until it finally attracts the waterfowl because sooner or later ducks or geese become so curious that they swim closer and closer to the shore. They sometimes flap their wings on the water or hiss loudly.

If the Tolling Dog is well behaved, it will not be distracted for a moment by the approaching waterfowl, nor will it watch them as they gradually approach the shore, lest they be frightened. When the ducks are finally within range, the hunter calls the dog back and gets up himself to scare the ducks away.

Then he tries to shoot down as many ducks as possible while flying away. This way of hunting is very promising, most of the time the hunter comes back with a bulging game bag. The dog then changes into its role as a robust fetcher who does not shy away from the icy water and fetches the ducks from the water.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Creature

Like the other retrievers, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever makes an excellent companion dog. He is easy to train and obedient. Since he is quite lively and playful and has a lot of temperament, you should give him the opportunity to exercise enough. If this is the case, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an excellent house and family dog.

He tends neither to stray nor to poach and is the first choice especially for beginners and for people who do not want to or cannot deal with a difficult dog. He is an uncomplicated and funny companion who can also be taken to local hunting trials for retrievers. One breeder reported a failed hunt where his overzealous bitch insisted on catching small quail by the wings and then retrieving him alive.

Although the hunt was completely ruined, the bitch had provided her owner with a funny story that he would remember with joy for the rest of his life. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a little more reserved towards strangers than, for example, the Golden Retriever. On the other hand, this sensitive dog is loyal to his family. A Michigan owner has saved her Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever’s life twice, once for real, the second time just in the dog’s eyes.

The first time, she slipped into a dangerous crevice while climbing, and her dog promptly positioned herself so she could reach his collar and pull herself out. Her dog’s second “lifesaving action” was that he wouldn’t allow her to go deeper than ankle depth in the water when trying to swim.

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